Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH)

Detailed information for April 2012





Record number:


The Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours provides a monthly portrait of the amount of earnings, as well as the number of jobs (i.e., occupied positions) and hours worked by detailed industry at the national, provincial and territorial levels.

Data release - June 28, 2012


The Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH) provides a monthly portrait of the amount of earnings, as well as the number of jobs (i.e., occupied positions) and hours worked by detailed industry at the national, provincial and territorial levels.

SEPH data provide the principal input to labour income estimates; they also serve as a proxy output measure for about 15% of real gross domestic product and 'nominal' gross domestic product. SEPH data are also used by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), to revise the maximum pensionable earnings and retirement savings plan contribution limits, and by the private sector, for contract escalations and wage rate determinations.

Monthly survey estimates are produced by a combination of a census of payroll deductions, provided by the Canada Revenue Agency, and the Business Payrolls Survey (BPS), which collects data from a sample of 15,000 businesses.

SEPH has started integration as part of Statistics Canada's Integrated Business Statistics Program (IBSP) to provide a more efficient model for producing economic statistics. The program changes ensure that SEPH will continue to produce a consistent and coherent set of economic statistics while using a standardized approach for economic surveys conducted at Statistics Canada through the IBSP. With the initial integration to the IBSP, concepts and questionnaire content have been harmonized, and common processing methodologies have been adopted.

Statistical activity

Together, four surveys tell a more complete story of current labour market events. These surveys are: the Labour Force Survey (LFS), the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH) Employment Insurance Statistics (EIS) and Job Vacancy Statistics (JVS). The LFS focuses on its strengths: timely data on the labour market, including the unemployment rate and demographic analysis. SEPH reports, which come out later each month, show greater detail on non-farm industry employment and earnings. EIS provides substantial detail on recipients of EI regular benefits by detailed geography, by socio-demographics and by former occupation. JVS offers information on labour demand by reporting on the number of job vacancies by industry.


  • Employment and unemployment
  • Hours of work and work arrangements
  • Industries
  • Labour
  • Wages, salaries and other earnings

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The program's target population is composed of all businesses in Canada that have at least one employee and, thus issued at least one payroll deduction remittance during the reference month. Excluded are businesses that are primarily involved in agriculture, fishing and trapping, private household services, religious organizations, international and other extraterritorial public administration and military personnel of defence services.

Instrument design

The BPS has a regular questionnaire and a questionnaire adapted to educational services. Both exist as paper forms and forms for computer-assisted telephone interview.

The BPS questionnaire was developed and tested by a multi-disciplinary team made of participants from Labour Statistics Division, survey operations, systems, and methodology.


Two of the variables of interest are collected by census method: total monthly payroll employment and monthly payrolls are extracted monthly from the Canada Revenue Agency Payroll Deduction (PD) administrative source. The payroll deduction source includes all employers with remittances for employee income taxes, CPP/QPP, and Employment Insurance contributions.

Payroll Deduction data are spread across provinces and industry using the enterprise profile in the Statistics Canada Business Register. The Business Register (BR), is a list of all businesses in Canada, updated each month by Statistics Canada, using data from various surveys, business profiling and administrative data.

Other key variables, including number of hours worked, are collected by the Business Payrolls Survey (BPS) which collects monthly data directly from a sample of establishments drawn from the BR. The initial BPS sample is made up of 15,000 establishments out of a population of 900,000 establishments. The sample is stratified according to geography (province), industry (North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), level 3 or 4) and number of employees in the establishments. Some units are permanently in the sample; most remain in the sample for one year only. Every month, one-twelfth of the sample is refreshed. Once removed from the sample, most units remain out of sample for at least one year.

Data sources

Responding to this survey is mandatory.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents, extracted from administrative files and derived from other Statistics Canada surveys and/or other sources.

The statistics compiled by SEPH are based on a census of administrative records for all in-scope establishments with employees that can be found on the Business Register. The total payroll employment estimates and the monthly payrolls are derived from the administrative source. Administrative information for total gross monthly payrolls and the total number of employees for the last pay period in the month are obtained from payroll deduction (PD) accounts maintained by Canada Revenue Agency. Public Sector Statistics Division of Statistics Canada provides information for general government services at the provincial and federal levels (see record number 1713).

The Business Payrolls Survey (BPS) conducted monthly, is used to collect SEPH variables not available from administrative sources. The BPS uses a combination of methods for data collection to permit maximum flexibility for respondents. For respondents using mail, questionnaires are mailed to the employer's payroll office. For respondents who prefer to be surveyed by telephone, computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI) are used. Respondents can also send reports electronically. Reporting units that do not respond to the initial contact are telephoned by staff of Statistics Canada's regional offices.

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s).

Error detection

For the administrative portion of the survey, edits and verification procedures at the data capture stage ensure that the data is of the best quality possible. Significant and unusual monthly movements at the micro level are identified using the Hidiroglou-Berthelot method, and are manually corrected, if appropriate.

Both manual and automated editing procedures are employed to detect and correct problematic data provided by the respondent on the BPS questionnaire. Historical edits (weighted and unweighted) are performed at the data collection stage.


Administrative portion of the survey: there are four methods of imputation:
1) imputing zero when the Canada Revenue Agency has been advised that there will be no employees in the month;
2) imputing from previous month information with a month-to-month change ratio (trend imputation) where there are indications that the units have activity in the current month;
3) imputing using other available variables (ratio imputation) and,
4) imputing based on current month stratum averages (mean imputation) in some cases where only one value has been reported.

Business Payrolls Survey: missing take-all establishments are imputed using the previous month's reports. In this way, respondent follow up is avoided while making use of as much data provided by the respondent as possible.


The total payroll employment estimates and the monthly payrolls are derived from the CRA Payroll Deduction administrative (PD) source.

Because not all SEPH variables are available from the PD remittance forms, a small survey, the Business Payrolls Survey (BPS) is conducted each month to collect the additional information required.

The information obtained from the BPS is used to estimate the weekly component of the gross monthly payrolls, the total number of paid hours (regular hours and overtime) and the allocation of hours, earnings and employment for three categories of employees (salaried, paid by the hour and others such as commission workers).

Estimation of the additional SEPH variables is done at the model group level, most of which are defined at the national and sub-sector levels except for a few cases where the employment size and the provincial dimensions are used. Regression coefficients calculated at the model group level are applied to the estimates of total employment and payrolls from the administrative sources to estimate the additional variables.

Quality evaluation

Coefficients of variation are analyzed every month to identify the domains having the least accurate estimates. Sampling fractions are adjusted occasionally in order to obtain comparable CVs across domains.

A micro-match is performed every month to compare the BPS data to the administrative source data (employment and payroll). Largest differences are looked at and corrected if necessary.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects which could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data. The G-CONFID software is used to control disclosure of the data.

The results of the SEPH are reviewed using the appropriate security measures complying with the Statistics Act to assure the safeguarding of the respondent's information and to ensure that no enterprise may be identified through the release of the SEPH estimates.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

Each month, SEPH releases statistics for the two latest reference months. They represent "preliminary" estimates for the current month and the "revised" estimates for the previous month. On a monthly basis, the preliminary data will be revised in the following month. On an annual basis seasonally adjusted data will be revised back and released with the December revised reference month. From time to time, a historical revision is necessary for changes related to new data sources and revised industry classifications and frame changes.

Data accuracy

For the administrative portion of the survey, response rates based on employment are produced and published every month for Canada, the provinces and the territories by type of payroll deduction accounts for the preliminary and final estimates (see Annex 2 of Statistics Canada catalogue number 72-002-XIB). The total response rate for Canada as a whole usually varies between 80% and 90%.

Every month, coefficients of variation (CV) are published for all variables and every domain (by NAICS industry for Canada, the provinces and the territories). These CVs take into account the sampling variance coming from the BPS as well as the variance due to imputation of the administrative source.

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